In the late nineteenth century, with the development of state penal institutions and the centralization of penal authority within the various states, there was a movement from local to state administration of capital punishment. This transition to state authority evolved slowly from the first state-imposed execution in Vermont in 1864 through the 1880s. Most of the change occurred between the 1880s and the 1910s. (As late as 1955, four states left executions to the local authorities: Mississippi, Louisiana, Delaware, and Montana.)
Up to that time, hanging had been the predominant method of execution. Hanging had been brought to America from England by the early settlers. In 1967, two sociologists estimated that some sixteen thousand people had been executed by hanging in America. It was inexpensive and easily carried out.
However, it could also be very painful, requiring up to twenty minutes for a prisoner to strangle to death. Some were decapitated. In the late nineteenth century, the "long drop" was introduced. This method of hanging uses a formula which determines the length of the rope to be used based on the weight of the prisoner. The fall is made long enough to break the prisoner's neck so that he will die almost immediately.
Despite improvements in the method, hanging fell out of favor in most jurisdictions. Many bungled executions were reported and hanging became associated with illegal lynchings. Also, the centralization of capital punishment facilitated the use of such methods as electrocution and lethal gas that were not feasible at the local level. Three states, Delaware, New Hampshire, and Washington, currently provide for hanging as an option.
Since 1977, three inmates have been executed by hanging: two in Washington, and the last, in 1996, in Delaware.
In 1888, New York became the first state to adopt electrocution as its method of execution. William Kemmler was the first man executed by electrocution in 1890. Eventually twenty-six states adopted electrocution as a "clean, efficient and humane" means of execution. Today, six states retain electrocution as their only method; five others offer it as an option. It is the second most common method of execution utilized in the modern era (1977-1997).
Utah had provided for death by firing squad since territorial days in 1854 (along with hanging and beheading). Nevada also gave inmates the choice of the firing squad or hanging beginning in 1911. Only one inmate was ever executed by shooting in Nevada (in 1913 by an "execution machine" consisting of three pre-aimed rifles) before the state switched to lethal gas. Shooting was also the penalty imposed by the military for deserters in time of war, but has only been used once since the Civil War (Private Eddie Slovik, 1945). Three states (Utah, Idaho, and Oklahoma) provide for execution by firing squad today. Since 1977, there have been only two executions by firing squad, both in Utah, the last in 1996.
Nevada was the first to adopt lethal gas in 1921. In 1924, Gee Jon was the first man to die in the gas chamber. Lethal gas was seen as an improvement over hanging, firing squad, and electrocution because it was less violent and did not disfigure or mutilate the body. Eleven states adopted lethal gas, including three that had previously used electrocution. Six states currently have statutes providing for lethal gas, although none retain it as their only method. Nine inmates have been executed by lethal gas in the modern era, the last in 1994 in North Carolina.
In the post World War II years a number of factors contributed to a growing movement against the death penalty including revulsion at atrocities witnessed during the war; the burgeoning civil rights movement; attempts by the ACLU and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to appeal death penalty cases; its abolition in a an increasing number of Western countries; and, a weakening in public support for the death penalty. During the 1950s and 1960s, ten states (Alaska, Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, Iowa, Michigan, West Virginia, Vermont, New York and New Mexico) abolished the death penalty joining Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota, which had abolished the death penalty prior to 1920. The rate of executions began to steadily decline beginning in 1951. By 1968, executions had stopped.
One of the first cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court recognized a capital defendant's right to protection under the "due process" clause of the Fourteenth Amendment was in 1932. In Powell v. Alabama, the Court insisted that counsel be provided for all capital defendants. Other decisions ruled against racial discrimination in jury selection (Patton v. Mississippi, 1947) and coerced confessions (Fikes v. Alabama, 1957). Sheperd v. Florida (1951) and Hamilton v. Alabama (1961) clarified and extended the rulings in Powell and Patton and all "typically involved the rights of black defendants in southern trial courts." Later attacks were made against the death penalty on Eighth Amendment grounds against "cruel and unusual" punishment. In 1969 in Boykin v. Alabama (which argued that the death penalty for robbery was infrequent, arbitrary and discriminatory) and in 1970 in Maxwell v. Bishop (which argued against finding of both guilt and punishment in one proceeding), the Court avoided the constitutional issue by sending these cases back to state courts on due process grounds. In 1971, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund brought the cases of Earnest Aikens, William Furman, and Lucious Jackson, two murderers and a rapist, before the Court, again, on the discriminatory and capricious way the death penalty had been imposed. During the Court's deliberation, Aiken's death sentence was nullified when the California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Anderson that capital punishment was unconstitutional under that state's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, leaving Furman v. Georgia as the lead case. (New Jersey's supreme court had also nullified that state's death penalty prior to the Furman decision.)
On June 29, 1972, the Supreme Court ruled in Furman v. Georgia and related cases "that the imposition and carrying out of the death penalty in these cases constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments." Justices Brennan and Marshall held that the death penalty, whatever its statutory form, was cruel and unusual. The remaining three justices in the majority, Douglas, Stewart, and White, more narrowly defined their objection: current statutes allowed for too much discretion by juries and the punishment was applied so infrequently and in such an unpredictable manner that it was likened to being struck by lightning. Infrequent application would fail to act as a deterrent and thus, compared to other available punishments, did not serve a justifiable purpose. The Court reversed the death sentence of some 120 cases. The Furman decision invalidated the death-sentencing schemes in thirty-two states and the District of Columbia and affected some 629 death row inmates nationwide. Generally, these inmates had their sentences commuted to life or other long term sentences by the governors of the various states.
According to Adam Bedau (an anti-death penalty advocate):
Within a year after Furman, commissions had been formed in several states to make recommendations on the issue, and bills to restore capital punishment had been introduced in three dozen legislatures. By midsummer, such bills had already been signed into law in twenty states. On the second anniversary of Furman, twenty-eight states had new death penalty legislation and more than 100 persons in seventeen states had been sentenced to death under these new laws.
By 1976, thirty-five states had enacted new death penalty statutes and these cases had made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On July 2, the Court ruled in Gregg v. Georgia that "the punishment of death does not violate the Constitution" provided that "guided discretion" is exercised in imposing the penalty, and allowed capital punishment to resume after a decade-long moratorium on executions. On that same date, the Court upheld the new death penalty statutes in Florida (Proffitt v. Florida) and Texas (Jurek v. Texas), but struck down those in North Carolina (Woodson v. North Carolina) and Louisiana (Roberts v. Louisiana) which provided for mandatory death sentences. Of the statutes passed that were ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court, all contained provisions for automatic appellate review of death sentences.
Later, the death penalty statutes in New York and Massachusetts were declared unconstitutional by their state supreme courts. After the Anderson decision, California passed a constitutional amendment allowing for the death penalty. In 1977 in Coker v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that rape of an adult woman did not warrant the death penalty. In the four years between the Furman and the Gregg decisions, over 600 prisoners were sentenced to death. Six months after Gregg, in January 1977, Gary Gilmore became the first person executed under the post-Furman statutes.
At the time executions in the United States resumed, many states had not executed anyone for over twenty, sometimes thirty, years. Previously used equipment, such as electric chairs and gas chambers, were old, needed expensive repairs, and had experienced problems in the past. Also, many states felt that a modern technique embodying the latest methods was needed. Lethal injection had first been proposed in 1888 when New York considered it but ultimately opted for electrocution. In 1977, Oklahoma became the first state to adopt lethal injection. Texas performed the first execution by lethal injection in 1982 with the execution of Charlie Brooks. To date, sixteen states have lethal injection as their only method of execution; sixteen others provide for it as an option. It is by far the most common method employed, with over 246 inmates put to death by lethal injection since 1982.
(Source: Florida Corrections Commission)
A report compiled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Capital Punishment 1995, and a telephone survey conducted April 1997 by the Staff of the Florida House of Representatives, Committee on Corrections, indicate that of the fifty states and the District of Columbia, thirty-eight states have a death penalty and differing methods of execution: lethal injection (36), electrocution (8), lethal gas (4), hanging (3), and firing squad (3).
Several states have more than one method of execution. Twelve states and the District of Columbia have no capital punishment. See Appendix E, "Methods of Execution by State."
For a detailed report go to Execution Methods.
Between April 7 - April 18, 1997, staff of the Florida Corrections Commission conducted a telephone survey of seventeen selected states to discuss their chosen method(s) of execution. Although some states have the statutory authority to use lethal gas, firing squad and/or hanging, the survey focused on states using lethal injection and electrocution.
Currently, thirty-two states allow for execution by lethal injection and eleven use electrocution. Sixteen states provide for two or more methods of execution. Generally, the surveyed states were selected because: (1) the high number of inmates executed by lethal injection; (2) recent changes in statutes to provide for execution by lethal injection; and, (3) use of electrocution. Table 1. details the states surveyed and the reason for their inclusion.
|Alabama||Uses electrocution as its only method of execution.|
|Arkansas||High number of inmates executed by lethal injection. Provides for both electrocution and lethal injection.|
|Connecticut||Recently amended statutes providing for lethal injection as its only method of execution. (No executions to date.)|
|Georgia||Uses electrocution as its only method of execution.|
|Illinois||High number of inmates executed by lethal injection.|
|Indiana||Recently amended statutes providing for lethal injection as its only method of execution. (One execution by lethal injection to date.)|
|Kentucky||Uses electrocution as its only method of execution.|
|Missouri||High number of inmates executed by lethal injection.|
|Nebraska||Uses electrocution as its only method of execution.|
|New York||Recently adopted the death penalty; chose lethal injection.|
|Ohio||Provides for both electrocution and lethal injection. (No executions by lethal injection to date.)|
|Oklahoma||High number of inmates executed by lethal injection. Provides for both electrocution and lethal injection. First state to adopt lethal injection as its primary method of execution.|
|Pennsylvania||Recently amended statutes providing for lethal injection as its only method of execution. (Two executions by lethal injection to date.)|
|South Carolina||Provides for both electrocution and lethal injection. Recently amended statutes to provide lethal injection as an option.|
|Tennessee||Uses electrocution as its only method of execution.|
|Texas||High number of inmates executed by lethal injection. First state to execute an inmate by lethal injection.|
|Virginia||High number of inmates executed by lethal injection. Provides for both electrocution and lethal injection.|
The surveyed states were asked to describe their execution procedures and if those procedures were in writing; composition of the execution team, including any medical personnel; problems encountered during executions; and, any documented costs of execution equipment. If the state used lethal injection, either as its only method of execution or as an option, they were asked what prompted the change, what method was used previously, and any legal ramifications of the change in methods. Information obtained from each state surveyed is detailed below.
States using lethal injection not included in the survey (followed by the number of executions by lethal injection to date) are: Arizona (6), California (3), Colorado (0), Delaware (7), Idaho (1), Kansas (0), Maryland (1), Mississippi (0),Montana (1), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (0), New Jersey (0), New Mexico (0), Oregon (2), South Dakota (0), Utah (3), Washington (0), and Wyoming (1).
Michael Radelet, chairman of the University of Florida Sociology Department maintains a list of "Post-Furman Botched Executions" which is posted on the Internet (See Appendix I). As of June 15, 1997, twenty-two executions which encountered problems during the execution process are listed. Of the twenty-two executions, thirteen related to lethal injections; eight related to electrocution; and one related to the gas chamber. Texas has seven; Virginia, Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Indiana have two each; Mississippi, Georgia, Arkansas, Illinois, and Missouri each had one.
Florida's two executions included were: Jesse Joseph Tafero on May 4, 1990, and Pedro Medina on March 25, 1997. Although most states contacted confirmed the above problems, Texas and Georgia stated that they had encountered no problems in their respective executions. Table 2. Depicts the percentage of problematic executions to total executions from 1977 to 1997.
Source: Compiled from "Executions in the U.S. 1976-1997," Death Penalty Information Cente and "Post-Furman Botched Executions" as of June 15, 1997.
Has electrocution as its only method of execution. Has had a bill introduced during previous legislative sessions to give inmates currently on death row the option of lethal injection and having lethal injection as the only method for those sentenced after the bill becomes law. There is no sponsor currently for that legislation and the Department of Corrections is not lobbying for it.
The electric chair was first used in 1927 and was built by inmates. There have been 167 executions in the chair. The headgear is also believed to be "homemade." The electrical components were updated in 1991 for approximately $26,000 by Jay Wiechert, an electrical engineer from Fort Smith, Arkansas (and the expert brought in by Governor Chiles to review the Medina execution). The headgear is leather with a copper screen and natural sponge, soaked in brine, sewn in. A single leg electrode is place on the inmate's left leg. A cloth mask is placed over the inmate's face last. A single switch is used to apply the current. An electrical engineer is contracted to check out the equipment before each execution. Confidential procedures available to criminal justice agencies on request. Alabama reported difficulties with their first post-Furman execution in 1983. A heartbeat was detected after the application of the first cycle and another cycle was administered. Corrections officials believe they simply did not wait long enough before checking for a heartbeat.
The warden is responsible for assembling the execution team. (No further information was available on this matter.)
The death chamber is located at Holman Prison and death row inmates are housed at Holman Prison and Donaldson Correctional Facility (males) and Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women (females). Death row inmates were first housed at the Donaldson facility when the number of death row inmates exceeded the available space for them at Holman.
There have been sixteen executions since 1977 to June 15, 1997.
Has the option of lethal injection or electrocution. For offenses committed after July 4, 1983, lethal injection is the only method of execution; for offenses committed prior to that date the inmate may choose either method. Since change in law, some inmates have chosen the electric chair. Change in law because lethal injection option considered more humane. Inmates must choose method seven days prior to execution and method chosen is documented.
Have written procedures for both lethal injection and electrocution. Confidential procedures available to criminal justice agencies on request.
Death house is used for both methods of execution and is located at the Cummins Unit. This institution houses maximum, medium, and minimum security inmates. Housing for death row inmates is located at another institution. The inmate is transferred to the Cummins Unit within 72 hours prior to the execution.
State has had multiple executions on same night on several occasions. Executions are conducted on the same day because it is considered easier on staff.
Execution Team has three components:
- Administrative Staff - director, warden of institution, executive staff.
- Tie-Down and IV team - tie down team consists of volunteer Department of Corrections correctional officers who retrieve, escort, and secure inmate on gurney or execution table. IV team consists of volunteer community-based medical personnel qualified to insert IV lines or perform cut-down (surgical incision to locate a vein) procedures.
- Institution Staff to provide security lockdown - warden's staff.
Department of Corrections Medical Administrator purchases IV lines, drugs, other medical materials and supplies. This position also packages lethal drugs for use in execution and is then kept under lock and key. Drugs used are based on University of Texas School of Pharmacy research to find most effective and quick-acting agents.
Three agents used in a sequence in specific concentration for shutdown of body.
- Sodium Pentothal - induction agent renders inmate unconscious and shuts down respiratory and cardiac; toxic amounts but not lethal
- Sodium Chloride wash - to wash sodium pentothal out of IV line
- Pancuronium Bromide "Pavulon" - paralytic curare - smooth muscle paralytic, shuts down respiratory - toxic but not lethal
- Sodium Chloride wash - to wash pancuronium bromide out of IV line
- Potassium Chloride - electrolyte which reverses polarity of heart muscles - shuts down heart
Drugs are administered in a sequence - not one mix. Some of the drugs cannot be mixed because they will crystallize and subsequently will not be effective. The example of John Gacy's execution in Illinois was described in which a single line was used. Sufficient wash was not used between drugs and the drugs crystallized which in effect stopped the process.
Do not use a machine because of possibility of malfunctions. Two separate IV lines are inserted into inmate. IV Team insert IVs but executioner actually administers drugs and executioner identity unknown. Team in execution chamber is in a locked room can see out but no one can see in.
Execution chamber contains controls for electrocution and for lethal injection devices. Executioners are in executioners' room well in advance to execution, and have private meeting with Medical Administrator prior to execution. Use a standard hospital gurney with three to four inch pad with extended arm. On lethal injection, use leather gauntlets of generic size to secure fingers, palms, wrists. Medical Administrator wears low-frequency headset and stands next to condemned man. Headset allows for communication with executioner and can direct which IV line to use if problems arise.
Have EKG monitor to establish flatline on inmate and use coroner to determine death.
Have extensive rehearsal within two to three weeks of execution including all participants. Have two rehearsals with a volunteer officer of same approximate weight and height of inmate who is instructed to "cause trouble" in the rehearsal. After execution have debriefing and counseling is also made available.
Use stout salt solution and disc of copper - solid copper concave device three inches in diameter which is soldered to top of headpiece; use sponges which extend beyond copper device. Headpiece and chair built by inmates or DC.
Have legislation which states any medical personnel involved "cannot be disciplined by any licensing board." Also prohibits identification of executioner or anyone not governed by policy.
There have been fifteen executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997; thirteen by lethal injection and two by electrocution.
Connecticut changed method of execution from electrocution to lethal injection effective October 1, 1995. Currently they are drafting written procedures for lethal injection method. Connecticut has reviewed lethal injection procedures from half dozen other states and visited North Carolina, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, and Texas. The change does not allow for an option for inmates sentenced to death prior to the effective date.
No one has been executed since the 1960s. The electric chair is scheduled to be placed in a museum. Used leather cap/straps with chair. Chair was made in early 1900s.
Next scheduled execution most likely within one year since appeals almost exhausted.
Daniel Webb, inmate, has filed appeal based on change from electrocution to lethal injection.
Execution team will be composed of all DC personnel. All personnel will be voluntary, and then screened and interviewed. Lethal injection will be administered via IV; staff to be trained in medical procedure; DC physician on board to monitor EKG.
Drugs used will be three drugs: sodium pentothal, saline solution, followed by pancuronium bromide "Pavulon," saline solution, and then followed by potassium chloride.
Electrocution is the only authorized method of execution.
The original electric chair was built in 1938 by inmates and is in a museum. The execution chamber and electric chair utilized now were built by inmates in 1976. The electric chair has a headband; the electrode makes contact with one sponge. The electrical components were purchased from a firm in Arkansas.
Electrical equipment was also purchased to conduct tests on the electric chair to ensure that it functions properly. Several tests are conducted prior to an execution.
The membership of the Execution Team is confidential and ranges from six to nine members. The members of the Execution Team are internal to the agency and the members are compensated $100 each. The Execution Team practices a range of potential inmate scenarios to ensure that they are prepared and that each execution proceeds according to plan.
Georgia has an execution manual that details the process, procedures, and steps associated with executions; however, the contents of the manual are confidential.
No problems were reported with any executions.
There have been twenty-two executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997.
Has lethal injection as only method of execution. Prior to change in method used the electric chair. Has written procedures which are confidential, but available upon written request from other correctional agency.
Execution Team consists of two teams: one of security staff; other for prior to execution. All teams composed of volunteers. The executioner is known only to director/warden. All staff involved on teams attend a debriefing after execution.
Used machine to administer drugs for lethal injection three to four years ago, but switched to manual push due to possibility of problems with machines.
Use three drugs with saline washes between drugs: sodium pentothal, saline solution, followed by pancuronium bromide, saline solution, and then followed by potassium chloride. All doses are administered in lethal dosage amounts. Two IVs are inserted: primary and secondary. The IVs are started prior to opening the curtains for witnesses. There is a direct line from executioner chamber to inmate.
In prior use of electric chair, two doses of electrical power were administered. Used natural sponges.
State statutes restrict professional medical associations from censuring medical personnel involved in executions. In the past, the AMA has lobbied to delete this provision from the statutes.
There have been eight executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997, all using lethal injection.
Indiana changed the method of execution from electrocution to lethal injection effective July 1, 1995. Discussion with the Public Information Officer of the Indiana Department of Corrections (IDOC) indicates that the state changed its method because lethal injection is viewed as a more humane method of execution, but more importantly, is less stressful on the staff involved in the execution. The change did not allow for option; even those cases prior to effective date of law will be executed by lethal injection. Indicated that there are cases pending regarding the use of lethal injection as "cruel and unusual punishment." Death warrant had to be modified to indicate lethal injection as method of execution instead of electrocution.
The methodology of the lethal injection process is patterned after Illinois' methodology. Initial costs involved the renovation of the execution room. IDOC has written procedures on the process, but the procedures are confidential.
Execution Team composed of approximately fifteen people, all volunteer IDOC personnel composed of correctional officers and medical staff. All receive extensive training, and a psychological evaluation prior to placement on team, and may leave the team upon their request.
A catheter is inserted into each arm with IV attached in which three drugs are administered in sequential order: sodium pentothal, saline solution, pancuronium bromide, saline solution, potassium chloride.
Tape available which shows execution chamber prior and after change in execution method.
There have been four executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997; three by electrocution; one by lethal injection.
Electrocution is the only authorized method of execution. The last execution was in 1962, although one execution is tentatively scheduled for July 1, 1997. Legislation proposing the use of lethal injection as an optional method of execution has been drafted, and a special session of the Kentucky Legislature may occur in the fall.
All male inmates under sentence of death are housed at Kentucky State Penitentiary. All female inmates under sentence of death are housed at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women. The electric chair is located at Kentucky State Penitentiary.
No later than twenty-four hours prior to the time of execution, any inmate sentenced to death is transferred from Death Row to a special housing unit located at the Kentucky State Penitentiary adjacent to the electric chair.
The electric chair was built by inmates in 1911; however the electronics were replaced in the 1950s. The electronics will be replaced again prior to the execution tentatively scheduled for July 1, 1997.
The identities of the members of the Execution Team are confidential and known only to select staff. The Execution Team consists of twelve persons internal to the Department of Corrections and has no members that are external to the agency. The warden selects three of the twelve member Execution Team to participate in an execution. The members of the Execution Team are from other institutions that do not house death row inmates to reduce the likelihood of a correctional officer participating in the execution of an inmate he/she previously had contact with. Members of the Execution Team are not compensated.
Has lethal injection as only method of execution; switched from electric chair in 1991 because it is considered more humane.
Last execution by electric chair conducted in 1991. Worst problem encountered was a third degree burn on right leg during an electrocution.
Procedures required a certified electrician on premises during execution.
Used a cloth mask over head, sponges on head and right leg, and a leather headpiece. Electric chair will be put in museum.
The last lethal injection execution had difficulties finding a vein. Stated that there are no written procedures. Machine not used in procedure, manual push used. Executioner administers drugs. Medical personnel (not doctors or nurses but most likely emergency medical technicians) in chamber. DC medical personnel selected by warden, although they do not have to be on execution team if they do not want to. Personnel rotated for each execution. Medical personnel tell executioner how to administer injections.
Warden remains in execution chamber with inmate; executioner in a separate room that has a one-way mirror. Curtains are drawn in execution room during preparation - witnesses don't see inmate until inmate is prepped completely. An IV is inserted in both arms; if needed can insert an IV in ankle.
Three drugs are administered in sequential order: sodium pentothal, saline solution, pancuronium bromide, saline solution, potassium chloride. Each drug is administered in a lethal amount. Process takes approximately five to seven minutes; all executions conducted at 12:01 midnight.
There have been twenty-four executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997; twenty by electrocution and four by lethal injection.
In 1988, legislation was passed that gave the Director of the Department of Corrections the discretion to use either the gas chamber or lethal injection. Since the first execution by lethal injection in 1989, Missouri has executed twenty-four inmates, all by lethal injection. (Prior to 1989, Missouri's last execution had been in 1965.) Written procedures for executions are considered confidential. Missouri estimates that the cost of an execution is approximately $6,300. The majority of those costs are associated with overtime paid to staff. The costs of drugs used are estimated to be $175. Until two years ago, Missouri used a lethal injection machine. They have since switched to manual push because it was easier to use than the injection machine.
Execution procedure: Inmates are given the option of receiving a sedative by injection prior to the execution. The "executioners" (two at each execution) are Department of Corrections employees. A contracted, "trained medical professional" inserts an IV line and a saline drip is started. The IV line leads into tubing, which in turn is run into an adjoining room. The executioners cannot see the inmate. One executioner manually pushes the drugs into the IV line; the other executioner releases a clamp which releases the drugs. Drugs used, in order, are sodium pentothal, pancurium bromide, and potassium chloride.
Executions by lethal injection are carried out at Potosi Correctional Center, where death row inmates are also housed. The gas chamber is at Jefferson City Correctional Center. For all practical purposes, the gas chamber is no longer used and would be very expensive to repair.
There have been twenty-four executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997, all by lethal injection.
Has electrocution only; lethal injection considered in past, but currently no changes are being considered.
Original electric chair was built in early 1900s. In 1945 the electrical components (transformer, etc) were upgraded. Use copper electrodes; sea sponges soaked in brine. Copper headpiece similar to a fan blade - eight perforated blades round in shape sits on head; oval shape copper piece placed on leg. Headpiece is constructed of leather with leather straps.
Personnel assigned to the execution team by the warden/director and the same people are used every time. Same location for execution chamber and death row. Close to execution date, inmate kept in hospital at institution and transported to basement (execution chamber) on day of execution.
Have confidential written procedures. The last execution was conducted in July 1996. Electric chair maintained by outside contract; test working order of equipment by boiling water in barrel for one minute.
There have been only two executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997. The worst reported problem encountered during an execution was a small blister on calf of leg and state did not experience any problems with head burns.
Reinstated the death penalty effective September 1, 1995. Lethal injection is the only method authorized. Lethal injection was chosen as the method of execution by a conference committee of representatives from the state assembly, state senate, and governor's office when the death penalty bill was being formulated. There was no testimony or evidence presented, nor controversy over choosing lethal injection. No executions have been carried out to date. (Note: Diese Aussage ist nicht mehr korrekt!)
Have option of lethal injection or electrocution. Inmate chooses method seven days prior to execution. If none chosen, method defaults to electrocution. Law was changed effective July 2, 1993, by State General Assembly. No specific case was cited for reason for change. Have not had an execution since 1963.
Lethal injection is the authorized method of execution since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. However, Section 1014, Oklahoma Statutes, authorizes electrocution should lethal injection ever be held unconstitutional and the use of a firing squad should both lethal injection and electrocution ever be held unconstitutional. The state's decision to switch from electrocution was not related to any problems or a specific case.
Statutes are not highly prescriptive regarding the composition of the Execution Team. The statutes authorize the Warden to select three volunteers to administer the drugs into the intravenous lines after the two IVs (one in each arm) have been inserted by medical staff. The three selected volunteers are not required to be medically trained, nor are they required to be internal to the agency. The volunteers' identities are hidden by hoods being worn and their identities are known only to the Warden and the Unit Manager. Each volunteer is paid $300.
The administration of the drugs is done manually because Oklahoma determined that a machine was prone to mechanical problems. The drugs are injected by hand held syringes sequentially into the IV lines, alternating between the two lines. The sequence of drugs is in the order listed below.
Saline is also injected into the line after each drug is injected. Each of the three executioners injects one of the drugs.
Three drugs are administered: sodium thiopental; pancuronium bromide; and potassium chloride.
The Death Row population is 136 (132 men and 4 women). Men are held at Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester and women are held at Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. All executions take place at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has conducted nine executions since 1977, with the first occurring in 1990, all by lethal injection.
Lethal injection is the only method authorized. Pennsylvania has executed two inmates by lethal injection since statutes were changed c.1994-95 and have reported no problems. The state had previously used electrocution, but had not performed an execution since 1963 and were afraid of equipment failure because of the age of the equipment and problems experienced in the past. Written procedures for executions are considered confidential. The estimated costs of drugs used is between $200-$300. Costs in Pennsylvania may run slightly higher than in other states because drugs are purchased in bulk and often expire before use.
Execution procedure: The "executioners" (two at each execution) are citizen volunteers. The executioners are paramedics, trained as IV technicians and are capable of performing cut downs, if necessary. The executioners insert an IV line into each arm and a saline drip is started. The IV lines are run into an adjoining room, separated from the death chamber by a two-way mirror. The executioners manually push the drugs into the IV line. Drugs used, in order, are sodium pentothal, pancurium bromide, and potassium chloride. The IV lines are flushed with saline solution between the administration of each of the drugs to avoid clogging the lines. Death is determined by visual observation.
Pennsylvania patterned their procedures after visiting and observing the methodology used in Texas. Executions are carried out at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview. Death Row inmates are housed at three other institutions. It is easier on staff if they do not personally know the condemned inmate.
Two inmates have been executed from 1977 to June 15, 1997.
Statutes were revised in 1994 to add lethal injection as a means of execution and allow condemned persons the right to choose their method of execution in order to be more humane. All condemned persons now have to choose the method of their execution within thirty days of the scheduled date of their execution. For those condemned persons that refuse to choose and were sentenced before January 1995, the method of execution shall be electrocution; however, for those condemned persons that refuse to choose and were sentenced after January 1995, the method of execution shall be lethal injection.
The state's decision to switch from electrocution was to be more humane and was not related to any problems or a specific case.
The identities of the members of the Execution Team are confidential and known only to select staff. The Execution Team consists of three persons internal to the Department of Corrections and has no members that are external to the agency. Members of the Execution Team are not compensated.
In prior years, there was outside members that were paid; however, the new Commissioner abolished the policy and felt it was not cost-effective.
The administration of the drugs is done manually. Two IVs (one in each arm) are inserted by contracted Emergency Medical Technicians. The drugs are injected into one IV line, and the line is flushed with saline after each injection. The second IV line is used in those instances where there is a problem with the first IV line. If death does not result within ten minutes of the last injection, the drugs are readministered.
South Carolina is in process of establishing a Capital Punishment Facility (CPF) that will be separate from its Death Row. Death Row is being moved to another institution in order to maintain anonymity for the agency staff involved and not for any issues related to the condemned persons. Condemned persons will be housed in the CPF one week prior to the scheduled date of their execution.
There have been twelve executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997. Of the twelve executions, five were by electrocution and seven by lethal injection.
Has electrocution as its only method of execution. The state has not had an execution since 1960. The chair was rebuilt by Fred Leuchter, an engineer from Massachusetts, in 1989. There are written procedures, some of which are made available to the public. The warden chooses the execution team from volunteers of correctional staff. The team practices and reviews procedures once a month.
The electric chair is computer controlled: there are dual controls and the computer decides which "switch" executes the inmate. There are also manual controls as a back-up. There are two electrodes attached to the leg and one in the headgear. The headgear is a leather "skull cap" with a 2-inch copper band on the inside. An elephant ear sponge, soaked in salt water is used.
Death row and the death house are located at River Bend Maximum Security Institution in Memphis. The female death row inmates (two) are housed at Tennessee Prison for Women.
A bill was introduced approximately two to three years ago to switch to lethal injection, but it did not generate a lot of interest. Officials estimate that it may be one to one and one-half years before an execution occurs.
From 1928 until 1964, the method of execution was electrocution. The electric chair was built by inmates in 1924 and now resides in a Texas Department of Criminal Justice museum. In 1977, lethal injection was adopted as the new method of execution in Texas. On December 7, 1982, Texas became the first state to use lethal injection as a means of execution.
The execution chamber has been located at the Huntsville Unit since 1924 and is still utilized. There are twelve cells immediately adjacent to the execution chamber that are used to house an inmate prior to execution.
Male Death Row inmates are located at the Ellis I Unit. Female Death Row inmates are housed at the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas.
Any inmate scheduled for execution is transported from the Ellis I/Mountain View unit to the Huntsville Unit to carry out the execution. Transportation arrangements are known only to the unit wardens involved and the exact time, method, and route of transfer are not public information. The Director's Office and the Public Information Office are notified immediately after the inmate arrives at the Huntsville Unit.
The identities of the members of the Execution Team are confidential and known only to select staff. The Execution Team consists of four persons internal to the Department of Criminal Justice and has no members that are external to the agency. Members of the Execution Team are not compensated.
The administration of the drugs is done manually. Two IVs (one in each arm) are inserted by medical staff. The drugs are injected into one IV line, and the line is flushed with saline after each injection. The second IV line is used in those instances where there is a problem with the first IV line. If death does not result from the last injection, the drugs are readministered. There are three administrations of the drugs available.
The drugs administered are: sodium thiopental, followed by pancuronium bromide, followed by potassium chloride.
The time of execution was changed in 1994 from midnight to 6:00 p.m. This was done in response to the workload in the Governor's Office associated with an execution. Changing the time of execution has resulted in a reduction of overtime for many of the staff involved.
There have been 128 executions by lethal injection from 1982 to June 15, 1997. Texas reports no problems with any executions.
Passed legislation, effective January 1, 1995, giving the inmate the choice of electrocution or lethal injection. If the inmate does not make the choice, execution will be by lethal injection. The sponsor of the legislation believed that lethal injection was a more modern method of execution and because there had been problems with the electric chair, he was afraid that electrocution would be declared unconstitutional. Initially $50,000 (using Louisiana's figures) was allocated for implementing lethal injection executions. However, officials have found that it cost approximately $5,000 for the equipment (gurney, tubing, and drugs).
Since allowing for lethal injection, fifteen inmates have been executed, all by lethal injection. (One inmate chose electrocution, but his execution was stayed. It is believed he chose electrocution to create more publicity.) No problems have been reported.
Execution procedure: Approximately one hour prior to the execution, the inmate is given a 10 mg. intramuscular injection of Thorazine. This procedure was once elective but is now mandatory. Corrections staff has found that by giving this shot, the inmate is more relaxed and it is easier for the technician to insert the IV. The IV line is inserted by correctional health staff. The drugs are administered from behind a partition in the execution chamber. Two correctional officers take turns manually pushing the drugs into the IV tubing. Virginia does not publicly disclose the drugs they use. A heart monitor is attached to the inmate and is read from behind the partition.
Electrocution is an option in Virginia. The last execution by electrocution was in April 1994. The chair was built by inmates in the 1960s. The electrical equipment was updated in 1990. Jay Wiechert designed the new equipment. Virginia officials decided to keep their old "headgear." First, a leather "Halloween-style" mask is placed over the inmate's face. A brass helmet, lined with natural sponge soaked in salt water is then placed on the inmate's shaved head. The "helmet" is hinged in the middle to allow it to fit different head sizes. A leather strap is used to secure it in place.
They do not used any type of electrolytic paste. One electrode is placed on the inmate's leg. Again, a leather strap secures the electrode in place. A cycle of thirty seconds of high voltage, followed by sixty seconds of low voltage is used. The heartbeat is checked five minutes after the cycle has been administered. (After the equipment was changed in 1990, the engineer who designed the equipment recommended a cycle of ten seconds of high voltage, followed by fifty seconds of low voltage. The heartbeat was checked after two minutes. The second execution that was performed this way resulted in a detectable heartbeat and another cycle was administered.
Since that time, officials reverted to the original procedure.) The execution team for both lethal injection and electrocution executions are the same (with the exception of the IV technicians). Executions are generally scheduled for 9 p.m. for the convenience of the staff.
The execution room for both electrocution and lethal injection is the same.
For lethal injection, a partition is drawn across the room, concealing the electric chair from the witnesses. It is from behind this partition that the drugs for the lethal injection are administered.
Executions are carried out at Greensville Correctional Center. Death row inmates are housed at Mecklenburg Correctional Center. Virginia officials recommend housing death row inmates in a facility separate from the death house. In the 1980s, when the death row and the death house were both located in Richmond, a death row inmate had become a "hero" to the other inmates because of an earlier escape. When the inmate was executed, the other inmates rioted.
There have been a total of thirty-nine executions from 1977 to June 15, 1997; twenty-four by electrocution and fifteen by lethal injection.
(Florida Corrections Commission)
Florida has electrocution as its only method of execution. The electric chair was constructed in 1923 when electrocution became the official method of capital punishment as authorized by the Florida Legislature. Prior to that date, executions were carried out by counties, usually by hanging. The chair was originally located at Union Correctional Institution, but was moved to Florida State Prison in 1962. Frank Johnson was the first inmate executed in the electric chair in Florida on October 7, 1924.
On June 29, 1972, in Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in the United States. At that time, Florida had not carried out an execution since May 12, 1964. The death sentences of 95 men and one woman were commuted to life in prison as a result of the Furman decision. The Florida Legislature revised the death penalty statutes in December 1972 (F.S. 921.141). These statutes were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on July 2, 1976 in Proffitt v. Florida. John Spenkelink was the first Florida inmate executed in the post-Furman era on May 25, 1979.
To date, 234 inmates have been executed in the electric chair, thirty-nine since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976. Florida has carried out nine triple executions, three quadruple executions and twenty-one double electrocutions. No multiple executions have been carried out in the modern era. No woman has been executed in the electric chair.
Two recent executions encountered problems: Jesse Tafero on May 4, 1990, and Pedro Medina on March 25, 1997. During both of these executions, flames erupted under the headgear. Incorrect use of sponges in the headgear were ultimately blamed for the problems with both of these executions. For the Tafero execution, a synthetic sponge, which was substituted for a natural sponge, ignited. In the Medina execution one of the two sponges located inside the execution headpiece had not been soaked in a saline solution.
This reduced the flow of electricity which heated the wet sponge and consequently caused the dry sponge to catch on fire.
Currently, there are 380 inmates on death row in Florida: 374 men (219 white, 135 black, 20 other) and six women (4 white, 2 black). Fifty-four of these men are housed at Florida State Prison; 320 are housed at Union Correctional Institution. The six women on death row are housed at Broward Correctional Institution. The death chamber is located at Florida State Prison.
The electric chair used in Florida is a three legged oak chair constructed by inmates and is known as "Old Sparky." Executions usually take place at 7:00 a.m. Administrative shift change occurs at 8:00 a.m. By scheduling executions for 7:00 a.m., the institution is quieter and more secure. Inmates are already in lock-down.
At the time of the Medina execution, there were no written procedures for the execution process. According to testimony documented in the Department of Corrections Investigation # 97-20953, the procedure has been passed down from "generation to generation." From this report and the Department's Public Information Office, the following is the execution process: approximately one hour prior to an execution, the inmate's head and right calf are shaved. Also, a patch on the chest is shaved for the placement of a stethoscope. The inmate then showers and returns to the holding cell, which has been stripped of all belongings. The superintendent reads the death warrant and an electrolytic gel is applied to the inmate's head and right calf. The inmate is lead into the death chamber and is strapped into the electric chair. Chin, chest, arm, wrist, waist, and leg straps are secured. A metal headpiece covers a leather hood. The hood, made at the prison, is lined with wool, and has a bronze rod with a copper wire mesh screen brazed to it on the inside. It also covers the inmate's face. A natural sponge is sewn with cotton twine onto the copper screen. Natural sponges, which have been soaked overnight in salt water, are placed at the contact points in the headgear and the leg.
The executioner is a private citizen who is paid $150 in cash. The executioner is present in the death chamber behind a screen. Information concerning the executioner and the execution team is confidential. The electricity for executions is provided by the institution's emergency generator. According to the Florida Department of Corrections, "(t)he electrocution cycle is two minutes or shorter in duration. During the cycle voltage and amperage levels peak on three occasions. Maximum current is 2000 volts and 14 amps." Florida Statutes Chapter 922.06-922.15 cover executions. The Department of Corrections has drafted written procedures since the Medina execution.
(Florida Corrections Commission)
On March 25, 1997, Pedro Medina was executed at Florida State Prison by means of electrocution. During the execution process, flames appeared from under the hood covering the head and smoke filled the chamber. Due to this apparent malfunctioning, the Florida Corrections Commission reviewed the method(s) of execution used by Florida and other states and recorded the problems encountered with these methods.
Following the execution, the Department of Corrections conducted an investigation of the proceedings (Investigation # 97-20953) and determined that the most likely cause of the problem was a corroded copper screen located inside the execution headpiece. Governor Lawton Chiles requested an independent review of the events and hired two experts: Michael Morse, an electrical engineering professor at the University of San Diego, and Jay Wiechert, an electric-chair consultant from Fort Smith, Arkansas. Their findings contradicted the department's findings and found that one of the two sponges located inside the execution headpiece was dry and had not been soaked in a saline solution. This reduced the flow of electricity which heated the wet sponge and consequently caused the dry sponge to catch on fire. Appendix A contains the reports submitted by Mr. Morse and Mr. Wiechert. It should be noted that the four pathologists assigned to conduct an autopsy of Pedro Medina stated that he was killed instantly from the electrocution and prior to the onset of the fire.
This malfunctioning has effected other Florida scheduled executions. Leo Jones' execution, scheduled for April 18, 1997, was stayed pending a hearing and ruling in circuit court of Judge A.C. Soud on the issue of Florida's electric chair's effectiveness. Although Judge Soud ruled on April 21, 1997, that the electric chair is not "cruel and unusual punishment" and that the malfunctioning was due to unintentional human error," the Florida Supreme Court granted an indefinite stay pending a hearing in that court on May 6, 1997, to hear arguments over Judge Soud's ruling. The Florida Supreme Court subsequently granted Gerald Stano, who was scheduled to be executed on April 29, a stay until at least May 30, pending the results of the May 6 hearing.
In May the Florida Supreme Court ordered a new hearing because information related to the state's execution protocol was not heard at the April trial, and the trial did not allow sufficient time to hear experts for the defense which would have countered the state experts' testimony concerning Medina's execution. The new hearing will be conducted in July, again by Judge Soud, and will return to the Florida Supreme Court in September. Leo Jones won a stay until at least September 15. The Florida Supreme Court also ordered that Leo Jones' experts be allowed to examine the state's electrocution equipment, and that they also be allowed to view the testing of the equipment by prison officials. The test will be conducted on June 30.
(Florida Corrections Commission)
Report on findings and Recommendations
Prepared following visit to Florida State Penitentiary at Starke, FL on April 8, 1997
Prepared by: Michael S. Morse
Date: April 10, 1997
In 1990 I visited the Florida State Penitentiary at Starke, tested the electric chair and made recommendations. At that time, the equipment functioned as is expected and necessary to deliver a lethal shock without inflicting pain. At that visit recommendations were made and discussions were held regarding procedures and protocols.
Present at this visitation was Mr. Jay Wiechert, Owner JAY WIECHERT MFG., Mr. Thomas Crapps, Assistant General Counsel, Governor's Legal Office, Mr. Ken Nunnelly, Office of the Attorney General, Mr. Ron McAndrew, Superintendent, Florida State Prison, Mr. Carl Hackle, Maintenance and Construction Superintendent, Florida State Prison, Mr. Jackie McNeill, Chief of Utilities, Florida State Prison. Also present were other DOC employees. Mr. Jim Luther of South Carolina DOC (retired) arrived later in the day.
NOTE: On the issues of Power Engineering, and power system design, I offer no comment and defer to Mr. Jay Wiechert, an expert in such areas.
Prior to conducting any tests, a meeting was held to discuss procedures and protocols followed by the DOC during executions with particular emphasis placed on the procedures followed during the Medina execution. The chart recordings of voltage and current taken during the Medina execution were reviewed and discussed.
The following was noted:
- An anomaly was noted in the trace of electrical current from the chartrecording made during the Medina execution. The current charted at the start of the execution was 4.5 amps).
- It was noted that the procedure for preparing sponges for the headpiece included the use of dry sponge under which a wet sponge (soaked in .9% sodium chloride) was placed prior to placing the headpiece on the inmate. (Both experts present agreed that the use of a dry sponge was a practice which needed to be discontinued and also that the saline solution used should be replaced by a saturated saline solution.)
- A discussion regarding corrosion of the screen in the headpiece yielded the conclusion that such corrosion was unlikely to have had an effect on the Medina execution. (This was verified by testing conducted with an equally corroded screen.)
Mr. Wiechert and I conducted several tests on the electrocution equipment.
Initially, tests were run to measure voltage and current produced by the system. A bucket filled with water into which electrodes were placed was used to provide an appropriate resistive load. The result of these initial tests were recorded by Mr. Wiechert.
The resistive load was calculated to be between 200 and 250 ohms which is in the range of typical values for a human as observed during an execution.
The system was then tested with the headpiece placed in series with the resistive load as would be typical during an electrocution.
In the first test, the individuals responsible for preparing the sponges and headpiece during the Medina execution were asked to follow the same procedures that they had followed and to affix the headpiece and combination of dry and soaked sponge to the top of a metal semisphere placed in series with the load. Less than one minute was allowed to elapse. The headpiece used was a backup headpiece with similar corrosion to that found on the headpiece used during the Medina execution. The system was energized and the result was that the dry sponge smoked and burnt as was observed during the first high voltage cycle of the Medina execution. This confirmed that the problem was the result of the use of a dry sponge in conjunction with a wet sponge. The situation is possibly exacerbated by the use of .9% saline. Localized blackening was observed on the metal semisphere indicating a current transfer area less than the area of the soaked sponge. This indicated a higher localized current density and burning of the sponge. The increased current density occurred as the result of limiting the area of electrical current transfer through the use of a dry sponge.
The test was repeated with the same headpiece but with only a single sponge which had been soaked in saturated saline solution. No burning or smoking was observed. It is noted that in both tests the headpiece had the same level of corrosion.
Chart recordings were made at different points during the testing. At one point, the voltage trace of the chart recorder failed to operate properly.
- The execution machinery continues to perform at an appropriate current and voltage level to perform executions without causing pain or undue suffering.
- The problems which arose during the Medina execution were the result of using a dry sponge between the wet sponge and the conductive screen in the headpiece. This dry sponge limited the area of conduction, increasing the current density, creating localized resistive heating at the top of the wet sponge and ultimately causing the sponge to ignite.
- The situation described in (2) is probably exacerbated by the use of .9% saline.
- On the assumption that electrocution at the level of several amperes causes instant depolarization of brain tissue, it is unlikely that Mr. Medina felt pain during his execution. The increased current density caused a higher level of localized tissue damage limited to the area of increased current density.
It is noted that there was a significant change of personnel between my visit in 1990 and in 1997. It is not known at what point or by what process a decision was made to use a dry sponge or at what point or by what process a decision was made to use .9% saline. Such procedural changes must be avoided in the future. In the future it is recommended that a single sponge soaked in saturated saline be used in the headpiece.
The problems observed in (1) could be avoided if detailed written procedures for each of the following are prepared and maintained on file:
Tasks to be performed by each member of the execution team before, during, and after an execution.
Procedure for choosing sponges, preparing sponges and for preparing saline solution.
Procedures for preparing and testing each piece of execution equipment prior to an execution.
Procedures and test schedule to be followed preceding an execution
It is recommended that all equipment be thoroughly inspected prior to each execution and any equipment showing indications of wear be serviced (or replaced) and then tested prior to use. Under no circumstances should equipment be replaced with dissimilar or untested equipment. Such changes in procedure or equipment can lead to unanticipated results.
It is recommended that the Chart recorder be serviced and calibrated on-site in preparation for each execution. Pens with adequate ink should be used. Chart recordings should be made and dated at each test of the electrical system prior to an execution. Each chart recording should be marked indicating direction of trace chart speed (in inches per second), and vertical scale (amps or volts).
Headpiece, sponge, and legpiece should be tested in conjunction with the electrical equipment at least once prior to each execution. (The electrical machinery should be tested several times prior to each execution Testing schedule and procedure should be established by an expert such as Mr. Wiechert.)
Following an execution, it is recommended that the sponge used be placed in a sealed plastic bag and that it not be reused.
Following an execution, it is recommended that pictures be taken documenting the condition of the inmate while still in the chair. Photographs should include pictures of all components in contact with the inmate as well as points of contact on the inmate.
A witness should be present during each execution who is responsible for noting time and nature of any happening out of the ordinary.
The state should use a more standardized test load than is currently used to ensure consistency in testing of the system. Although the use of a bucket of water (with salt) is highly effective, there is enough variability to justify the expense of creating a test load. (See Mr. Wiechert for details.)
JAY WIECHERT MANUFACTURING
SPECIAL MACHINES - TOOLS - FIXTURES
INDUSTRIAL CONTROL SYSTEMS
719 SOUTH 10TH
JAY WIECHERT, Owner OFFICE 501-782-5667
PROFESSIONAL ENGINEER FAX 501-782-2178
EXAMINATION OF EXECUTION EQUIPMENT
April 8, 1997 Starke, FL
Meeting was arranged by Mr. Thomas Crapps (Governor's Legal Office) to determine cause of headgear fire during Medina execution and also to make improvements to equipment and procedures for future executions.
Dr. Michael Morse of San Diego was employed as consultant. He has electrical and medical background as well as experience with electric chairs in various states. I was employed because I design and build new electrocution equipment and have serviced older equipment.
Mr. Ron McAndrew (Superintendent Florida State Prison) and his staff described in detail the Medina execution and the preparations preceding the execution. Body electrodes and sponges were examined.
Chart paper showing voltage and current during Medina execution was examined.
After preliminary conference, we examined the execution equipment in the Death House. Generator was used to provide power for equipment (consistent with actual execution). Water bucket with two brass rods (resistive load) was used to simulate a human body (approximately 250 ohms). Headgear and sponges were tested using metal bowl (simulate scalp). Electrical instrument readings (voltage and current) were compared. Portable meters were provided by Dr. Morse and myself. Panel mounted voltmeter and ammeter was observed as well as chart recordings.
Burning of headgear was caused by improper preparation of sponges. The small sponge attached to brass screen was dry. The separate larger sponge was soaked in .9% sodium chloride. During the execution, enough saline solution transferred from wet sponge to dry sponge to permit lethal current to flow. Due to small wetted area, the current density was great, thus elevating the temperature. Burning of sponge and headgear resulted.
Oxidation (discoloring) of brass screen, although undesirable, probably was not a factor.
Execution equipment, up to and including high voltage cables, performed properly.
Use single natural sea sponge larger than brass screen (brass must not touch skin). Soak in saturated salt water (not .9%). Saline solution is saturated if undissolved salt remains in bottom of container after stirring. Sponges must be wet. Very slight dripping of saline may result from tightening electrode straps (use towel). Repair leg electrodes (replace lead with brass).
Use of gel on skin is optional. Most executions have been performed without gel. If used successfully in past, don't change brands.
Fix and calibrate chart recorder. Erratic operation was observed during testing. Time scale (inches per second) must be measured and recorded on chart paper. Voltmeter and ammeter are working properly.
Written test procedure and execution procedure should be implemented. Duty assignments should be given to each team member (if someone is absent, his duties are spelled out for an alternate).
Electrical schmatic of equipment must be in hand during test and during execution. Electrician must be in attendance and be familiar with equipment. Purchase spare parts crucial to execution.
Test equipment quarterly. Test equipment one month prior to scheduled execution (allow time to order replacement parts if required). Use a repeatable resistive load for testing (measured voltage and current should remain the same year after year). I have loaned Superintendent Ron McAndrew a Test Unit for this purpose. Energize chart recorder during test, record date on chart paper and save.
At the conclusion of an execution, notes should be recorded from team members (debriefing). This will be valuable to team performing the next execution.
(Florida Corrections Commission)